Part III: Camera Equipment for the Serious Artist

by Mark Thellmann, InLiquid artist

Today’s artist needs top quality slides to document their creations, gain access to juried shows, and produce printed promotional pieces. But what kind of camera can produce these slides leading to shows and sales?

Any fully manual 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) camera, coupled with a sturdy tripod will do the job. “Fully manual” means that you have full control over the selection of shutter speeds and f-stops. Semi-automatic SLR cameras and most rangefinder cameras don’t allow this. The rangefinder camera adds another complication in that the viewing window is separate from the lens, resulting in a cropping problem known as “parallax” when doing close-up work.

It’s a misnomer that a certain brand of camera takes better photos than another. Although accessory features may differ and some brands are noted for sharper lens optics, the additional bells and whistles are a matter of choice (and budget) and the lenses being manufactured currently are sharper than the human eye!

Most SLRs are sold with 50mm lenses; however, these lenses are limited because their focal range only allows you to get so close – somewhere usually around 2-3 feet. If you are photographing small objects, you’re sunk.

If you are purchasing a new camera, trade the 50mm lens for a lens with “macro.” This feature, sometimes called “micro” depending on the manufacturer, will allow you to fill the frame with an object as small as your thumb, while still functioning as a “normal” lens. I use a 55mm, f3.5, micro Nikkor flat field lens, which is designed to photograph flat surfaces like paintings without distorting. It has a broad focal range and is very sharp.

If you purchase everything new and shop around a little, a fully manual SLR coupled with a macro lens and a sturdy tripod will run around $500 on up. You could pay less buying used, but make sure a warranty is included. Ask for thirty days with free repair, full cash refund or full trade-in value if something goes wrong.

Mark D. Thellmann has been an art photographer, fine artist, and photography instructor for the past 25 years. He has recently produced a video entitled Take Perfect Photos of Your Art and Craftwork which discusses and demonstrates the necessary camera equipment, lighting, film exposure and methods of photographing paintings, sculpture, woodworking projects, fabric art and jewelry.

A second video entitled Alternative Photographic Processes with Polaroid Films (time-Zero film manipulation, image transfer and emulsion transfer) reveals the techniques Mark uses to create fine art. These fine art images can be found in the Polaroid Museum Collection and on greeting cards and posters throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

All materials copyright Mark Thellmann. No reproduction without permission. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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